Lucas Niang isn’t worried about being a rookie. He’s not worried about half of the K.C. Chiefs offensive line being the same. Despite the lack of experience for some and chemistry for all, Niang sounds measured about the whole thing when he says that things are coming together well for the newly rebuilt unit.
With the Chiefs wrapping up training camp at Missouri Western State University, Niang spoke with reporters in a media session on Wednesday about several things, including how things are coming together for a brand new offensive front.
“We’ve come together fast. We’ve got a ways to go, but we’re doing a good job. Everybody’s communicating and getting on the same page. We’re jelling as a group, so it’s something to be looking forward to.”
This offseason, the Chiefs invested heavily in completely ripping down the offensive line to the proverbial studs in the hopes of signing, trading for, and/or drafting some actual studs to make up for the average play in some spots and injuries in others.
Lucas Niang doesn’t sound like a rookie lineman for K.C. Chiefs.
Gone were the team’s long-term tackles of Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz. Center Austin Reiter was allowed to leave in free agency. Both guard spots needed an upgrade in competition, and the Chiefs imported new starters or hopeful starters at each and every spot.
When the dust settled, the Chiefs had a pair of Pro Bowl-level veterans to anchor the blindside in tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and left guard Joe Thuney. From there, however, the Chiefs drafted a pair of high-ceiling rookies who have asserted themselves enough to earning starter’s reps in Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith.
As for Niang, he was another impressive rookie from last year’s class who was returning from an opt-out season due to COVID-19. Given his year away from the game and no rookie season at all, it was hard to tell exactly what the Chiefs would have in him. The team even re-signed Mike Remmers to come back and likely man the right tackle role as Niang returned to the game. So far in camp, that’s not been the case.
Remmers has dealt with back spasms for much of camp, which has allowed Niang to take over the starting role. He’s looked great on the right side and held down his part well in limited snaps as the Chiefs won their first preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers.
For his part, Niang says playing opposite Chris Jones in practice has helped him develop his game in particular. The Chiefs have been experimenting with shifting Jones outside on early downs.
“I gotta be on 10. I gotta be ready,” said Niang. “I gotta know my assignments so I can just go out there and play. I can’t be unsure about what I have to do. If I have to block him, I have to think about how to block him and what to do, so he’s pushed me to just know my assignments and get my technique down.”
In terms of the team’s trio of starting rookies—at least at this point—Niang downplayed any idea of camaraderie among the three around that identity. Instead, he’s just focused on the overall unit and wining games together for the Chiefs.
“It doesn’t matter to us that we’re rookies. It’s just football. We’re always together, learning together, making sure we communicate.”
At this point, Niang hopes he holds down that starting spot in order to help deliver an overall team message to the Cleveland Browns as they get ready to face a strong contender in Week 1. It’s a tough line that includes Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney among others.
“I just think it’s important for us to set the tone. Come out first play and smash ‘em. They’re not going to like that, and if you keep doing it, they’re going to break down.”